Donkeys in Pajamas, Giraffes Necking and Impala Pie


LIVINGSTONE, ZAMBIA — Go to the Zambezi Sun, the managing editor of the paper where I am posted, urged. It is right on the falls.

I didn’t want to burden him with either expectations or with a grudge (I have been told I hold them, for example, against the matronly sociopathic former editor who, with an air of comforting affection, stuck me on night cops for six months of my one life), so I left the decision to the trip-planning half of our little family and hoped for the best.

For the first time in recent years, it turned out, a management-level editor made a good call.

The Zambezi Sun is right on the falls — the ones that are one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It is a three-star hotel  that in every particular except food is a five star hotel. But then,  it shares grounds with the Royal Livingstone, a five-star hotel, that in turn boasts as its best justification for the extra two stars (aside from a claim that each guest gets a personal butler dressed up in colonial costume — no thanks, and the claim they will throw flower petals on the bed for special sexual occassions — how embarrassing a call to the desk is that?) the best dinner under the stars I have had.

Both hotels are on the grounds of the Mosi Oa Tunya National Park, and that means that the animals run both. Which is just fine.

For one thing that meant we were greeted upon our arrival by this:


Then came the warnings, which endearingly began to make us feel as we might visiting the beautiful home of a delightfully eccentric wealthy couple with terribly spoiled children.

We can’t serve coffee at the scenic patio by the river — the monkeys steal the sugar and make a mess of everything.

Would you like to sit on the balcony or inside — (this for lunch) — oh, never mind, outside’s no good, there’s a baboon out there (a woman, cowering in the doorway, for some reason told me the baboon was “the same size as you” perhaps annoyed, justifiably, that I was slow on the uptake of why sharing space with a baboon is a bad thing).

Be careful around the ponds at night — the crocodiles.

And, most thrillingly of all, don’t stand within a couple of meters of the zebras — they will kick you.

Zebras. Even the thought of having a chance to see one unstriped by zoo bars, free to kick whoever didn’t respect its space, was the best hype of all.

And it happened, in droves.



Which in the course of following them (from a respectful distance) led to an encounter with the giraffe family:


It is hard to describe what it was like when the baby was born, a passing security guard told us mistily, they stayed close. If the mother had to go somewhere the father watched the little one. We have much to learn from them, he said.


It is the Garden of Eden.

Until dinner. That is where, with a smirk that belied his air of regret, the family trip-planner pointed, under entrees on the menu, to “Impala Pie.”

Impalas are guilty of no more than being a little shallow. Like most of us animals.


In their case, like most, this manifests in their mating habits. Each group of females has one male (the apparent difference — the males have horns). If you see a lone male, it means another male cut in, so to speak, crashed his party, and kicked him out. And he wanders alone until he finds a “bachelor herd” of other horned impalas. Those lone male impalas and those bachelor herds have gracefully curving horns. Their replacements — the interlopers, tend to have less developed ones; youth helped them gain their ascendancy.

Who do they prey on? No one, a guide told us. Who preys on them? Only humans, he said, embarrassedly. Sadly for them, apparently, they are tasty as all get out.

I do not know this first hand, and I don’t intend to find out. At the news meeting I attended on my return this afternoon I mentioned that having seen them alive, seeing them on the menu made me feel bad. Yes, several of the editors explained amidst the laughter, but the meat is delicious.


2 Responses

  1. I saw a giant rat getting on the Metro over the weekend (I was actually the one getting on the Metro, to be clear) but I think your zebras are a little better.
    Miss you madly!

  2. I want a giraffe of my own!! I do not want any impala pie.

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